Challenges of Gender Mainstreaming in the Public Sector of Kenya

Gender mainstreaming is integral to a country's sustainable development. Development progress of any country is also pegged on access to optimal use of resources for both men and women. Gender mainstreaming of policies and programs in both the public and private sector is important if gender equality and equity for all citizens is to be achieved. Gender mainstreaming also results in more effective service on the part of operation, power and resources. Kenya as a country has made great efforts to mainstream gender in its activities but there have been challenges that have derailed the process. The main objective of the study was to determine the challenges facing gender mainstreaming in the public sector in Kenya. The specific objectives of the study were to investigate the level of knowledge and attitude of the officers handling issues of gender mainstreaming in the public sector in Kenya; to examine the institutional barriers to gender mainstreaming in the public sector in Kenya; and, to find out the external barriers to gender mainstreaming in the public sector in Kenya. This paper draws on a recent study which was aimed at investing the challenges facing gender mainstreaming in the public sector of Kenya. The study employed both qualitative and quantitative methods of data collection which included key informant interviews and a structured questionnaire. The study randomly sampled 11 ministries and purposively selected one for the study. Twelve informants were purposively selected from the sampled ministries and 40 respondents were randomly sampled from the ministries under the study. From the study it was evident that although the government of Kenya has taken a lead in making sure that gender mainstreaming is achieved, a lot needs to be done before the process is successfully implemented. The study findings show that the main institutional barriers affecting the gender mainstreaming process include lack of political goodwill from the government, the slow pace of developing gender policies by various ministries, lack of sensitization of staff on gender related issues, lack of adequate budget and technical staff and lack of proper training on gender related issues. The study also shows that socio-cultural factors are the main external barriers that hinder the gender mainstreaming process in the public sector of Kenya. Factors like patriarchy, gender stereotyping, socialization and lack of societal awareness on issues pertaining to gender have been seen as the major barriers of gender mainstreaming. Others include the literacy disparities between men and women and the belief by many people that gender rnainstreaming is all about women. The study recommends that the public sector of Kenya should take all the necessary steps to deconstruct the socio-cultural factors that have been seen to be the main challenge facing gender mainstreaming in Kenya by holding workshops and seminars, to sensitize the society from the grass root level on the importance of gender mainstreaming. The study also recommends that the government should take the necessary steps to ensure that all ministries have working policies and that all the objectives of these policies are achieved. The study has also recommended that the government ensures integration of gender perspective in the budgetary process and aim at the provision of funding for specific progragmmes that will address challenges facing gender mainstreaming.